Accessibility and Safety of Services
Coordinating and Collaborating With Other Providers
Community Education and Outreach
Accessibility and Safety of Services
PROGRAM STANDARD 2.1: A written guideline describes the program's methods for maintaining geographic accessibility of services and accessibility over time, including:
- Accessibility of location appropriate to service goals.
- Accessibility of services to persons with disabilities and specific needs.
- Accessibility of services to persons with limited English proficiency.
- Provision of public information on hours of program operation and types of services offered.
- Provision of information about eligibility criteria to the public.
Commentary: Programs can help people access their facilities through a variety of methods, such as posting signs and providing directions (with consideration given to language access needs). Programs should also consider the public's access to your facility via public transportation (as available). Special consideration should be given to domestic violence and other programs that may require special safety precautions (e.g., controlled access to the building, meeting in a confidential or nontraditional location), and to programs that operate primarily through electronic or phone communications.
When establishing program space, programs should consider accessibility of services to persons with disabilities or specific needs, such as individuals who are Deaf or hard of hearing and persons with limited English proficiency. Every attempt—including, but not limited to, compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as applicable—should be made to ensure that offices are free of barriers to mobility and that auxiliary aids and services (e.g., translation devices, or qualified on-site or remote interpreters) are available for persons with sensory impairments. Organizations should have a Language Access Plan for in-person, telephone, or video interpreting, and for translating vital written documents into frequently encountered languages, in order to establish appropriate linguistic access to services to limited English proficient persons in compliance with federal and local laws, including Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Websites and other communications also should be accessible.
For more information about the Americans with Disabilities Act, see www.ada.gov/reachingout/t3regl2.html.
If a program does not have staff available who can provide qualified interpretation services to limited English proficient persons, the program should use a professional interpretation service. Children and family members should not be used for interpretation services. Programs should also strive to communicate effectively with individuals who are Deaf or hard of hearing by providing auxiliary aid options such as trained American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters, TTY relay services, qualified note takers, cued speech interpreters, written materials, and email and texting capabilities.
Information should be available to the public regarding hours of service, including hours for basic services and for crisis or on-call response, and response times for electronic communications. Regular weekday business hours (e.g., 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) should be considered as a minimum, but additional or alternative hours may be needed for the types of services offered.
Every effort should be made to meet the scheduling and safety needs of survivors. For example, survivors may need to meet at a time when their abuser is not home or while their children are in school. Survivors who are employed may have difficulty taking time off from work to receive services. These needs should take priority over a victim service program's standard operating hours or typical scheduling protocols.
Weekend, evening, and on-call 24-hour response may be necessary for some crisis intervention programs. Crises may include not only victimization incidents, but also recalled memories, disclosures, traumatic events, and any legal proceedings or involvements. If a program's crisis intervention is limited (e.g., limited hours or limited training of responders), program staff should be knowledgeable of other providers and have contact information available for trained 24-hour crisis intervention personnel in the community. During hours of unavailability, programs might leave recorded messages informing callers how to contact crisis intervention services. Providers should clearly explain to clients that use of electronic technology does not imply 24-hour availability for consultation and case handling.
Crisis response time should be reasonable given the geographic traveling distance (e.g., 15–30 minutes in urban areas, as soon as possible in rural areas). For some crises, responders may be dispatched directly to the crime scene, victim's home, or hospital; in these cases, program procedures should be assessed to ensure adequate safety (for persons served and program staff) and ethical precautions.
Information should be available to the public regarding methods for accessing services (e.g., by scheduling appointments, on a walk-in basis, as crisis response). This information may describe any limitations regarding self-referral or referral by professionals, and may include basic eligibility limitations (e.g., information about documentation that may be required to obtain services). Some programs publicize information on service availability by mailing letters to or contacting by phone victims/survivors identified by screening incoming reports. If programs identify victims/survivors this way, their procedures for doing so should comply with local privacy laws.
PROGRAM STANDARD 2.2: A written guideline specifically describes the program's policy on nondiscrimination in service provision.
Commentary: The guideline is intended to promote equal service access for all individuals and (when applicable) to ensure that training and education are available to the community served. Service providers should be aware of and comply with applicable federal, state, and local civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination based on certain classifications. While these protected classifications may vary by jurisdiction, it is in the best interest of victims/survivors that programs not deny service on the basis of age; race; color; national origin, including limited English proficiency; literacy; sex; gender identity and expression; sexual orientation; disability; social class; economic status; education; marital status; religion; immigration status; or HIV status. Programs are required to comply with applicable federal, state, and local civil rights laws, which prohibit discrimination on specified bases, such as those described above. The guideline should comply with all applicable civil rights laws and the requirements of any parties providing financial assistance to the program. Programs should strive to provide the most inclusive services possible. They also must remember that governmental and other funding restrictions prohibit many programs from promoting religious doctrine, practice, or affiliation or engaging in explicitly religious activities in the direct provision of services. Any explicitly religious activities must be offered separately, in time or location, from the programs or services funded with direct financial assistance from the government, and participation in such activities must be voluntary for beneficiaries of the programs or services funded with governmental assistance. Exceptions to these parameters would be privately funded, clearly identified, religiously based programs. Staff should be well-versed in appropriate and acceptable responses to spiritual dimensions of trauma.
PROGRAM STANDARD 2.3: A written guideline describes the program's procedures for assessing and maintaining equal access to services.
Commentary: This standard refers to procedures that supplement basic nondiscrimination policy. For instance, geographic jurisdiction, together with information on victimization rates and the type of victims/survivors to be served, can be used to estimate population parameters for measuring the actual client base. The demographics of the population served should roughly reflect those of the geographic area served (with the exception of programs specifically targeted toward underserved populations; these programs should consult their funding providers regarding the impact of the civil rights laws discussed above.) Programs may want to assess whether the extent of services that victims/survivors use varies for different populations (e.g., whether some victims/survivors discontinue services more quickly than others). Programs that notice marked disparities in service use by different populations should examine ways to provide services for those underserved groups in compliance with applicable civil rights laws. These could include different outreach efforts or permissible gender- or culture-specific methods of helping victims to access resources and support. (See Program Standard 5.21 regarding needs assessment and program evaluation.)
PROGRAM STANDARD 2.4: A written guideline describes the program's procedures for assessing safety, security, and maintenance of service premises. The following issues should be addressed, as applicable:
- Maintenance of physical premises.
- Safety and security of grounds and interior for those served and staff.
- Safety of transportation (if any) provided by staff to those served.
- Safety and security of phone, mail, and electronic communications with those served.
Commentary: The safety, cleanliness, and physical space of the building must comply with health and safety codes and align with program goals. The building should be in good condition, waiting rooms and offices should be kept clean, and the physical environment should be properly maintained to ensure a reasonable degree of comfort. Whenever possible, interviewing rooms should ensure privacy. Staff should be trained in emergency procedures that may require evacuating the building or notifying crisis response personnel.
Programs should consider the emotional safety of victims and survivors when assessing the premises, and evaluate the physical space, as well as their policies and procedures, through a trauma-informed lens to identify and avoid situations that could re-traumatize victims. Programs may want to solicit input from clients they have already served about their impressions of the physical space, safety and security measures, the choice of artwork, and messaging used on signs and posters. If program staff provide transportation to the people served, car doors should be locked and small children secured in safety seats. Accompaniment by a second staff member may be advisable. Program policy might discourage staff from transporting intoxicated, psychotic, actively suicidal, runaway, or other individuals who may pose a physical threat or liability to other victims/survivors or staff. Law enforcement or other emergency transport may be warranted under these circumstances.
The guideline also addresses measures taken by the program to reasonably ensure that staff and those served are protected from intimidation, threat, and physical harm on service premises and while working within the community. These measures might include drafting procedures for handling instances when victims/survivors are stalked by offenders (e.g., in domestic violence, trafficking, or gang-related cases) and when victims/survivors or offenders threaten staff.
Special consideration should be given to the safety and security of communications with people served. For instance, messages left on voicemail and electronic communications may be intercepted by those who share a home/account with the victim/survivor (or, in some cases, by information technology administrators, supervisors for workplace accounts, hackers, or investigators), thereby presenting a risk to privacy and safety (particularly in domestic violence situations). Thus, any use of such communications should include added security measures and minimal disclosure of information about the nature of the case or organization. Prior to initiating new forms of communication, program staff should confirm with the victim/survivor which methods of communication they prefer.
Coordinating and Collaborating With Other Providers
PROGRAM STANDARD 2.5: A written guideline describes program procedures for communication and collaboration with other providers.
Commentary: No single service provider is capable of meeting the comprehensive needs of all victims. Therefore, it is important to establish and maintain ongoing relationships with other programs and service providers at the local, state, tribal, and national levels to ensure access to services that meet the full range of victims' needs. Establishing formal policies, procedures, and interagency agreements outlining which individuals and organizations can provide particular services, and when, where, and under what circumstances, can enhance the effectiveness of these partnerships.
To ensure that written protocols and interagency agreements are carried out, they should be signed by those in authority or by the top executive of each agency indicated in the agreement (e.g., executive directors, chiefs of police). Interagency agreements should outline, at a minimum, the following:
- A description of the agencies implicated by the agreement.
- The commonly defined roles of each agency and the scope of services each will provide in the context of the agreement.
- A plan for activating the agreement (e.g., a plan for initial/first response, timely notification and communication protocols, timely referral procedures among agencies, location of services).
- Procedures for information sharing among agencies, that comply with each agency's confidentiality policies.
- A backup plan for community crises and other unforeseen circumstances (e.g., natural and manmade disasters, large-scale events).
- Responsibilities for recordkeeping.
- Data security for information exchanged among professionals.
- Name and position of the provider to be contacted if protocol is violated.
In addition to working with the agencies responsible for directly providing the full array of victim services, programs are encouraged to initiate and maintain regular planned exchanges with representatives of educational institutions, justice agencies, and other organizations regarding the program's goals and objectives, training services, direct services, and other topics as they arise. Collaborative networks could include state coalitions (e.g., domestic violence, sexual assault, general victimization); victim assistance groups; crisis responders; medical providers; Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner and Sexual Assault Response Team (SANE/SART) programs; mental health services; peer support groups; social services; child and adult protective services; campus victim services; school-based programs; tribal programs; substance abuse counseling services; faith-based entities; military programs; employment assistance programs; housing programs; programs for victims of trafficking; disability service providers; programs for individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer; community-based organizations that provide culturally and linguistically appropriate services; and other groups in the community. Other programs may include attorney generals' offices, state compensation offices, law enforcement victim service programs, legal service providers, prosecution-based programs, corrections, probation and parole, and juvenile justice programs, Cross-training is especially encouraged for individuals who work closely with one another or who share a work area (e.g., when a victim assistance provider visits a police crime scene or a hospital emergency room).
PROGRAM STANDARD 2.6: The program conducts ongoing education and outreach in the community, as demonstrated through a written guideline or program description. Elements might include the following, as appropriate to program goals:
- Training for other professionals.
- Public relations.
- Social change advocacy.
Commentary: Programs are more effective when they are known in the community and show a commitment to the welfare of community members. Therefore, beyond interventions to address victimizations that have already occurred, consider disseminating information on primary prevention and risk reduction techniques, as well as how to identify victims, report a crime or victimization, and access services.
Prevention and education efforts might include planning and hosting awareness events (e.g., vigils, walk-a-thons) or delivering public presentations on issues such as risk reduction, how to report crime, services available to crime victims/survivors, and responding to and coping with trauma. Consider, in particular, providing educational events at schools and for vulnerable or underserved populations (e.g., older individuals, ethnic minorities). Prevention and education efforts may also focus on potential perpetrators and bystanders.
Educating other service providers about the scope and impact of victimization helps to enhance the capacity of those whose work affects victims/survivors of crime (e.g., dispatchers, police, medical providers, clergy, funeral directors, psychologists, social workers, marriage and family therapists, substance abuse counselors, disability service providers) to understand and meet the needs of victims/survivors and their significant others.
Public relations may include social media, press releases, public service announcements, media interviews, and meetings with reporters, producers, and editorial boards.
Social change advocacy can be used to effect change within your organization or other systems (e.g., to improve an agency's or institution's response to crime victims/survivors). Social change advocacy, for instance, can be used to encourage justice systems to respond consistently to the needs of those victimized by violence.
The development of education and outreach methods should be guided by and reflect the diversity and character of the community and victims served. For example, in communities with large populations of persons with limited English proficiency, written and electronic broadcast service information should be made available in frequently encountered languages. Outreach efforts should also be strategic in their timing and placement in order to be effective. Survivors' input should assist greatly in these efforts.
Carefully review the terms of your program's grant agreements and consult all funding parties to ensure compliance with any restrictions related to program activities, including outreach, prevention, training, travel, and lobbying.